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A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha…
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A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie (Original 2015; 2015. Auflage)

von Kathryn Harkup (Autor)

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
2701477,862 (4.17)28
Investigates the poisons Christie employs in fourteen of her mysteries, discussing why the poisons kill, how they interact, obtainability of such poisons, and which cases may have inspired Christie's stories.
Mitglied:lizzy_bb
Titel:A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
Autoren:Kathryn Harkup (Autor)
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2015), Edition: Export/Airside, 320 pages
Sammlungen:Deine Bibliothek
Bewertung:*****
Tags:Literary Criticism, Misc General Knowledge

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A is for Arsenic: the Poisons of Agatha Christie von Kathryn Harkup (2015)

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[A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie] is fascinating. The author goes through each of the poisons, in alphabetical order, that Christie used in her novels, and the format is excellent. First she gives the history of the drug, and any of its derivatives. Then she explains how the drug interacts with the body. Next she discusses antidotes and detection. Finally she talks about real life cases of using it as a poison and how Christie incorporated some of these into her novels. She does reveal which poisons are used in which novels and who the victims are, but she does not spoil the endings - she never reveals the murderer or how they are caught. The exception to this is the chapter on Opium, but she warns you first and tells you where to turn to if you want to skip the spoilers - hard to argue with that! The chemistry nerd in me is loved it, but you don't have to have a background in chemistry to appreciate and understand the material presented. Definitely highly recommended. ( )
1 abstimmen Crazymamie | Nov 29, 2020 |
Kathryn Harkup has written a lovely book that explores the poisons used by Agatha Christie in her novels. The introductory chapter provides some interesting biographical material of Christie and why she knew so much about poisons. Harkup then dedicates the next 14 chapters to a specific poison, such as arsenic, belladonna, cyanide, digitalis, eserine, hemlock, monkshood, nicotine, opium, phosphorus ricin, strychnine, thallium and veronal (a type of barbiturate). Each chapter describes how Christie used the poison in her novels, how the poison works, if there is an antidote, and examples of the poison used in real life.

I am not an Agatha Christie fan so found the sections describing Christie's novels and their plot summaries didn't particularly appeal to me, and also became tedious after a while. Reading several plot summaries does not make for thrilling reading. Harukp managed to avoid spoilers for the most part, or at least warned of spoilers before discussing pertinent Christie novels. This will no doubt be appreciated for Christie fans who haven't read all of her novels.

The sections that describe how each poison effects the body were more interesting to me. Harkup provided enough science to understand why substances were toxic without bogging the lay reader down with irrelevant detail. Many poisons have similar effects on the body (i.e. they impair nerve functioning), so some sections were a bit repetitive by necessity. Appendix 2 provides structures of a few of the chemicals described in the book, which was a nice addition.

The real life poisoning attempts were also interesting, especially the manner in which the poisoners were eventually caught.

This book would appeal to fans of Agatha Christie and for those who would like to know how a variety of poisons work. There is no overall narrative, and each chapter can be read separately and out of order. None the less, this is an interesting, informative and enjoyable book. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
This is a nonfiction book that covers some of the poisons that Agatha Christie used over the years in her books. The chapters cover a poison and talk about the book that it was in without giving away the murder and tell you if there was a real life case that might have inspired her to use it. The neat part is the author goes into excellent detail in the science on each poison on how it kills, if there was an antidote to it, and did Agatha Christie give all the correct symptoms and dosages in her books. I didn’t know that Agatha Christie worked in a pharmacy during both World Wars and this is where she got the knowledge to use these poisons so well in her books. I enjoyed the book and it will be a fun read for a big mystery fan.

Digital review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
( )
  Glennis.LeBlanc | Jan 6, 2020 |
Overall entertaining, educating and just a little enervating. There’s a lot of chemistry and biology in the explanations of how each poison kills that it can be a little overwhelming to read the book in long sessions. Broken up in smaller bits it works better. In addition to explaining how each poison kills, the writer describes how Christie used it in a particular book, how accurate she was about dosing and symptoms (she was!) and whether there were any real-life murders with that poison. Readers will especially like that there are no spoilers in most of the explanations, and where there are they are forewarned. Nice!

Although I learned a lot from the book, there were some things that I felt didn’t need explaining. Like how heroin is cut to maximize profits. Haven’t we all seen Dirty Harry, Miami Vice and a million other cop dramas to understand that this is the norm? Jeez. But on to the good stuff -

Arsenic is known to retard decomposition. Arsenic eating became a fad … yeah, I know … weird. But this fad may have contributed to the vampire myth. Bodies found long after death or disinterred may have shown little signs of decay. Where’s my stake?

Belladonna’s active component is atropine from the latin atropa which comes from Atropos, the aspect of fate responsible for cutting the cords of life. That is just so cool.

Hemlock has been mentioned in fiction for thousands of years - in plays, poetry and even used in the name of a Sesame Street character, the detective Sherlock Hemlock. Hemlock decreases in potency as the plant ages. I did not know that and will only use young hemlock. Kidding.

The term cold turkey comes from morphine withdrawal symptoms. Getting chilled and having goosebumps is very common when coming off opioids and people looked like cold turkeys. Why not cold geese is anybody’s guess.

One thing that I didn’t need to learn from a book because I already know it to be true is this - “The interaction of morphine with opioid receptors in the cerebral cortex, the higher functioning part of the brain, modifies our perception of pain. A person under the influence of morphine may continue to be aware of pain, but is no longer concerned about it.” p 183

Right on. I’ve said it in other reviews and places - vicodin (et al) doesn’t do anything for pain, it just makes you not care.

Overall an interesting book and one that if you are a person of large fortune with unscrupulous relatives, will make you want to hire a food taster. ( )
1 abstimmen Bookmarque | Jan 16, 2019 |
This one is for all the Agatha Christie fans out there who also love science.

Harkup devotes a chapter to each of the 14 poisons Christie used to eliminate so many of her victims over the course of 56 years writing mysteries. In each chapter she discusses the history of each poison's discovery, its use in real crimes throughout history, its antidotes (if any), how its tested for, and how Christie used each poison in her books (as well as how accurate her knowledge was - hint: very).

I found the writing compelling and incredibly interesting, but this is not a book for people bored by, or disinterested in, chemistry and anatomy. Harkup knows her stuff both as a chemist and as a Christie fan. She gets into the nitty gritty details about how each poison wreaks its havoc in the human body; this might cause some eyes to glaze over. In almost every chapter, she manages to discuss Christie's books and plots without revealing the killer, and when she can't avoid it, she clearly warns the reader upfront that there are spoilers ahead, offering "go to page xx" to readers wanting to avoid knowing whodunnit. Some might still find her discussions too revealing, so be warned; if you want to know as little as possible about the books, save this one for later.

At the end, she offers a fascinating appendix of every book and short story Christie wrote, with each US/UK title and a list of all the ways people die, a more esoteric appendix illustrating most of the chemical structures discussed in the text (the rest are on her website), a select bibliography and a comprehensive index.

I came away from this book having learned a lot, but possibly the two most important things: strychnine is just about the last way I'd want to go, and that Christie would have been the last person I'd ever want to piss off. ( )
  murderbydeath | Apr 5, 2018 |
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Investigates the poisons Christie employs in fourteen of her mysteries, discussing why the poisons kill, how they interact, obtainability of such poisons, and which cases may have inspired Christie's stories.

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